A subway tunnel to Staten Island, 80 years in the makingBy
The only New York City Transit rail line on which I’ve never ridden. (Photo by Chris Slaight / NYCSubway.org)
Yesterday’s discussion of Staten Island got me thinking more about the city’s forgotten borough. Did you know, for instance, that Staten Island nearly seceded from New York City in the early 1990s?
But civil politics are neither here nor there. We here to discuss the subway, and so we shall look at what one City Council member from Brooklyn is proposing: a subway tunnel from Brooklyn to Staten Island.
Say what? The MTA is already working on a rather lengthy tunnel down Second Ave. and a planned expansion westward of the 7 line. No way can they find the resources to build another massive project. Well, Lew Fidler thinks that for the environmental sake of the city, we should consider his plan. The Brooklyn Paper reports:
Here’s an idea whose time has come — again: How about a subway to Staten Island?…
In addition to a transit tunnel, Fidler supported a cross-Harbor freight tunnel and burying the BQE to open up the Sunset Park waterfront to parkland and economic development — both dreams of transit wonks. To pay for it, Fidler would levy a one-third-of-one-percent tax on all employer payrolls in the tri-state region.
“Congestion is a regional problem and requires a regional solution,” he told The Brooklyn Paper. “In order to get off Staten Island, residents have to use one fossil-fueled vehicle or another — car or bus. It’s ridiculous that the fastest-growing borough has no access to the rest of the city.”
In reality, Fidler’s proposal is a red herring, designed to stir up opposition to the congestion fee plan. But his statement, as far-fetched as it may be, brings us back to an era before anyone under the age of 75 was alive and kicking.
Back in the early decades of the Twentieth Century during post-Great War boom times for the City, the operators of the subway — the BRT company — wanted to build a rapid transit tunnel from Brooklyn to Staten Island. I’ll delve into the back story soon; the history told through articles in The New York Times is fascinating to any student of history of the New York City subways. But the short version is here.
The BRT started building the tunnel but entered bankruptcy in the mid-1920s. The city bailed out the subways but wanted no part in the tunnel construction to the then-isolated and very rural Staten Island. The tunnel — extended about 150 feet out in the harbor — has laid dormant under Owl’s Head Park ever since.
This tunnel surely would be a boon to Staten Island. But it’s not happening now, and it probably won’t happen ever. But we can all dream even our motives, like Fidler’s, are less than pure.